LOS ANGELES – In a surprise union of two quintessentially American composers from different eras – one the 1960s mastermind of “Good Vibrations,” the other the Jazz Age creator of “Rhapsody in Blue” – former Beach Boy Brian Wilson has been authorized by the estate of George Gershwin to complete unfinished songs Gershwin left behind when he died in 1937.
He plans to finish and record at least two such pieces on an album of Gershwin music he hopes to release next year.
The Gershwin-Wilson project may strike some people as an odd coupling: one New York musician famous for sophisticated 1920s and ’30s pop songs, including “’S Wonderful” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” as well as such expansive, classically minded compositions as “Rhapsody”; the other the driving force behind Southern California beach culture hits such as “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “I Get Around” and “California Girls.”
But their career paths and evolution of their artistry have common threads, noted people involved with the project, and that gives the proposed collaboration logic.
Todd Gershwin, George’s great nephew and a trustee of the George Gershwin family trusts, said: “George for his time was a visionary. He certainly crossed genres and musical lines, tried things that hadn’t been done before, and Brian Wilson has done exactly the same thing.”
For his part, Wilson, 67, described himself Tuesday as “thrilled to death.”
“I’m proud to be able to do it,” he said in an interview. “Hopefully I’ll be able to do them justice.”
Todd Gershwin said a collection of several dozen song fragments, ranging from “a few bars to some almost finished songs and everything in between” had been sitting virtually untouched for more than seven decades. He and other trustees began reaching out in the last year or two to find contemporary artists who might be interested in completing those musical bits and pieces.